6th Governor of Kentucky
August 5, 1816 – October 14, 1816
Lieutenant Gabriel Slaughter Preceded by Isaac Shelby Succeeded by Gabriel Slaughter
Born June 1763
Augusta County, Virginia
Died October 14, 1816
Political party Democratic-Republican Spouse Jane Smith Relations Brother of Bishop James Madison and Thomas Madison; cousin of President James Madison Profession Soldier Religion Presbyterian Military service Allegiance United States Service/branch Continental Army, Kentucky militia Rank Major Battles/wars Revolutionary War, Northwest Indian War, War of 1812
George Madison (June 1763 – October 14, 1816) was the sixth Governor of Kentucky. He was the first governor of Kentucky to die in office, serving only a few weeks in 1816. Little is known of Madison's early life. He was a member of the influential Madison family of Virginia, and was a second cousin to President James Madison. He served with distinction in three wars – the Revolutionary War, Northwest Indian War, and War of 1812. He was twice wounded in the Northwest Indian War, and in the War of 1812 he was taken prisoner following the Battle of Frenchtown.
Madison's political experience before becoming governor consisted solely of a twenty-year tenure as state auditor. Although his military service made him extremely popular in Kentucky, he sought no higher office until the citizens insisted he run for governor in 1816. James Johnson, his only challenger in the race, dropped out early due to Madison's overwhelming popularity, and Madison was elected without opposition. A few weeks later, he became the first Kentucky governor to die in office. Opponents of his lieutenant governor, Gabriel Slaughter, mounted a popular but unsuccessful challenge to Slaughter's succeeding Madison in office.
George Madison was born in June 1763 in the portion of Augusta County, Virginia that eventually became Rockingham County.[a] His parents were John and Agatha (Strother) Madison. His brother James became the Episcopal bishop of Virginia and the president of William and Mary College. Another brother was Captain Thomas Madison. He was also a second cousin to President James Madison.
Little is known of Madison's early life. He was educated in the local schools of the area and received instruction at home. Before he was old enough to legally enlist, Madison entered the Continental Army as a private during the Revolutionary War.
It is not known precisely when Madison moved to Kentucky. Land entries in Lincoln County indicate that he and his brother Gabriel were there by at least 1784. He married Jane Smith with whom he had four children – Agatha, William, Myra, and George.[b] Jane Smith-Madison died in 1811.
Service in the Northwest Indian War
Madison served with the Kentucky militia during the Northwest Indian War. He was a subaltern in Arthur St. Clair's army in the American defeat at the Battle of the Wabash on November 4, 1791. During the retreat, a fellow soldier named William Kennan found Madison sitting on a log. Kennan was being pursued by Indians and admonished Madison to run, but Madison, who was already known to be of frail constitution, stood to reveal that he had been badly wounded and was bleeding profusely. Kennan quickly retrieved an abandoned horse he had seen during his flight; he helped Madison astride the horse, and the two escaped their pursuers.
Later in the war, Madison fought under the command of Major John Adair. On November 5, 1792, Adair's men were encamped near Fort St. Clair when they were ambushed by an Indian force under the command of Little Turtle. Adair ordered a retreat, then gathered his men and divided them into three groups. He ordered the group under Madison to turn the enemy's flank, but they had little impact, and Madison was again wounded in the battle. Following this failed offensive, Adair's men withdrew to Fort St. Clair. In Adair's report to Brigadier General James Wilkinson, he noted "Madison's bravery and conduct need no comment; they are well-known."
Governor Isaac Shelby appointed Madison as Auditor of Public Accounts on March 7, 1796. He served in this capacity for twenty years, and although he never sought a higher office, historian Lewis Collins opined that "there was no office within the gift of the people which he could not have easily attained, without the slightest solicitation." In 1800, he became a trustee of the Kentucky Seminary in Franklin County. On December 5, 1806, he served on a grand jury which refused to indict Aaron Burr for treason. He was appointed director of the Bank of Kentucky later that year.
During the War of 1812, Governor Shelby called for volunteers to serve in the Army of the Northwest. Colonel John Allen raised a regiment, and Madison was made his second-in-command. The regiment, known as the 1st Rifle Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers, fought under James Winchester at the Battle of Frenchtown. Winchester was captured by General Henry Procter, but about four hundred men under Madison repelled several charges by the British. Madison's men believed they had won the victory when they observed a white flag in the midst of the British force, but the flag was actually being waved by Winchester as an order for Madison's force to surrender. When Madison discovered that it was Winchester who was waving the flag, he refused the order to surrender on grounds that as a prisoner, Winchester had no authority to issue it. Proctor demanded Madison's unconditional surrender, but Madison insisted that the terms of surrender include Proctor's protection of the American prisoners from Proctor's Indian allies. Proctor initially balked at anything but an unconditional surrender, but after Madison's promise that the Americans would "sell their lives as dearly as possible", Proctor acquiesced.
Proctor had as many prisoners as soldiers, and was in no position to enforce the terms he had agreed to. The non-commissioned officers were paroled and returned home. Madison and the other officers were taken to Fort Malden, then on to a prison in Quebec. The American wounded were left under the care of American physicians. Shortly after the battle, the Indians looted the American provisions, which included a large quantity of whiskey. Drunk and violent, they slaughtered many of the American wounded in what became known as the Massacre of the River Raisin.
Madison was freed from prison a year after his capture as part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to Kentucky following his release and was honored at a public dinner on September 6, 1814. He resigned as auditor of public accounts in 1816 due to failing health, but submitting to public demand, he became a candidate for governor later that year. James Johnson, the other candidate for office, withdrew from the race due to Madison's popularity, thus the latter was elected without opposition.
Death and aftermath
Madison traveled to Blue Lick Springs for his health soon after the election, but was too weak to travel back to Frankfort for the inauguration. A Boubon County justice of the peace administered the oath of office on September 5, 1816 at the springs. His only official act of office was the appointment of Colonel Charles S. Todd as secretary of state. He died on October 14, 1816, just weeks into his term. He is buried in Frankfort Cemetery.
Madison was the first Kentucky governor to die in office. Opponents of his lieutenant governor, Gabriel Slaughter, immediately challenged his ascendancy to the governorship. They claimed that a governor should not be allowed to serve without having been elected to that office by the people. A measure calling for a special gubernatorial election easily passed the state House of Representatives, but failed in the senate by a vote of 18–14. Slaughter was allowed to exercise the powers of the governor, but many government officials and citizens of the state refused to call him by that title, opting for "acting governor" or "lieutenant governor" instead.
^[a] Powell, Encyclopedia of Kentucky, and NGA give Madison's birthplace as Augusta County. Harrison and Hopkins both give Rockingham County.
^[b] Encyclopedia of Kentucky names these four children. Powell names only two: George and Myra. Hopkins references five children, but does not name them.
- ^ a b Harrison, p. 601
- ^ Encyclopedia of Kentucky, p. 73
- ^ a b c d e f Powell, p. 22
- ^ a b c d e NGA Bio
- ^ a b c Hopkins, p. 20
- ^ McClung, p. 274
- ^ Gaff, pp. 85–86
- ^ a b c d Collins, p. 310
- ^ a b c Coles, p. 116
- ^ Young, p. 23
- ^ a b c d e Coles, p. 117
- ^ Collins, p. 311
- ^ Young, p. 26
- ^ a b Hopkins, p. 21
- ^ a b c d Harrison, p. 602
- ^ Powell, p. 24
- Coles, Harry L. (1966). The War of 1812. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226113507. http://books.google.com/books?id=_TcEUZRa9a4C. Retrieved on 2009-01-24.
- Collins, Lewis (1848). Historical Sketches of Kentucky. L. Collins. http://books.google.com/books?id=HXMUAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved on 2008-12-02.
- Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987. ISBN 0403099811.
- Gaff, Alan D. (2004). Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne's Legion in the Old Northwest. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806135859. http://books.google.com/books?id=QEI11WSV3WcC. Retrieved on 2009-01-24.
- Harrison, Lowell H. (1992). Kleber, John E.. ed. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Associate editors: Thomas D. Clark, Lowell H. Harrison, and James C. Klotter. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813117720.
- Hopkins, James F. (2004). Lowell Hayes Harrison. ed. Kentucky's Governors. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813123267.
- "Kentucky Governor George Madison". National Governors Association. http://www.nga.org/portal/site/nga/menuitem.29fab9fb4add37305ddcbeeb501010a0/?vgnextoid=3d04c895ddf56010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD&vgnextchannel=e449a0ca9e3f1010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD. Retrieved on 2007-03-09.
- McClung, John Alexander; Henry Waller (1872). Sketches of Western Adventure: Containing an Account of the Most Interesting Incidents Connected with the Settlement of the West, from 1755 to 1794. Richard H. Collins & Co.. http://books.google.com/books?id=ItxN-l8hBFsC. Retrieved on 2009-01-24.
- Powell, Robert A. (1976). Kentucky Governors. Danville, Kentucky: Bluegrass Printing Company. ASIN B0006CPOVM, OCLC 2690774.
- Young, Bennett Henderson (1903). Battle of the Thames: in which Kentuckians defeated the British, French, and Indians, October 5, 1813, with a list of the officers and privates who won the victory. J.P. Morton. http://kdl.kyvl.org/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=kyetexts;cc=kyetexts;rgn=full%20text;view=toc;idno=b92-56-27063367. Retrieved on 2009-01-25.
- Brown, Orlando (July 1951). "The Governors of Kentucky". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 49 (3): pp. 202–212.
- Lewis, William Terrell (1893). Genealogy of the Lewis Family in America: From the Middle of the Seventeenth Century Down to the Present Time. Courier-Journal Job Printing Company. p. 397. http://books.google.com/books?id=fu4wAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved on 2008-01-10.
- Eli Smith, A Funeral Sermon on the Death of Governor Madison (Frankfort: Gerard & Kendall), 1817.
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